A team of engineers working at University of Maryland’s TechPort, typically a drone startup incubator, are converting breast pumps into rudimentary ventilators. Breast pumps create significant suction to pull milk out of a woman’s breast. Turns out the pressure, if reversed, can probably provide enough assistance to deliver the necessary positive end expiratory pressure that many patients in acute respiratory distress need.
Since the breast pumps that are out there are mostly resting in attics unused, they may be quickly put to use as basic ventilators to help COVID-19 patients. The engineers have already built a few prototypes, and can turn a breast pump into a simple ventilator for a total parts cost of about $300.
Some advantages of using breast pumps is that they’re built to medical standards, and have a closed-loop compressor that avoids getting contaminated, so only tubing needs to be replaced between patients, and all kinds of breast pump are compatible with the new approach.